Saudi director’s journey with drones yields amazing shots of ancient sites

Nezar Tashkandi has worked with the Saudi Ministry of Tourism shooting aerial photos and videos of top tourist destinations, covering historical places such as AlUla and areas unknown to many such as Dee Ain. (Supplied)
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Updated 09 September 2020

Saudi director’s journey with drones yields amazing shots of ancient sites

  • Tashkandi bought his first drone in 2017, had a rough start, not knowing it would be his ticket to stardom

JEDDAH: Drone technology has come on leaps and bounds in the past decade, bridging the gap from niche and military use to business and personal.

In 2010, a French company released the first ready-to-fly drone fully controlled using a smartphone, and the world has never been the same since. 

Its commercial success was immediate and since then, drones have developed in many ways, from size to quality and function, from use a delivery tools to mobile cameras.

The idea of working amidst the clouds appealed to Nezar Tashkandi, a native of Jeddah, ever since he worked as a flight paramedic in Omaha, Nebraska, responding to emergency rescues while working as an assistant director at a media production company on the side.

“Most of my work was in the helicopter responding to a lot of cases. I saw that the vision from the sky is different from the ground. So I thought there should be some way I could make a film from the air,” Tashkandi told Arab News.

“I realized that drones were an opportunity for me to expand my knowledge and my vision,” he added.

He started as an assistant director then headed straight for the drone industry. “My first job was a reporter drone pilot to respond to crime scenes and film them with the drone, and I started doing that for news companies.”

He bought his first drone in 2017, and had a rough start, not knowing it would be his ticket to stardom. 

“As soon as I flew it, I crashed it, and I was so devastated that I wouldn’t be able to continue. But the curiosity and the vision I had, it was all through the drones, and I had to learn the basics,” he said.

Throughout his journey, he has crashed many drones and faced many financial challenges to purchase more. 

As soon as I flew it, I crashed it, and I was so devastated that I wouldn’t be able to continue. But the curiosity and the vision I had, it was all through the drones, and I had to learn the basics.

Nezar Tashkandi, Drone director

“None of my friends supported my idea, not even my family,” he said. “No one knew what I was going through with the drones. I was so ambitious to learn a lot about drones, it was so difficult to learn as well as there weren’t many people that had knowledge on them at that time. And I knew it was the opportunity for me to expand my vision and career in the media production field.”

He took his drone piloting career to the next level when he photographed the Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.

“I didn’t realize that this kind of career was so beautiful, but at the same time I took it to the next level when I made my first Rocky Mountain National Park aerial footage. I received some support from the park in Colorado, where they gave me access to the whole community.”

He added: “After a while, my friends and family started to notice and thought: ‘You know what? You actually might have a career in this thing, but stick to plan A as a flight paramedic because it has more income and a better life.’”

After working in the US as a drone pilot for two years, he came back to the Kingdom and worked as a paramedic at the Saudi Red Crescent Authority for a while. “The moment I came back to the country, I made connections to shoot films,” he added.

Through his knowledge and skill in the drone industry, he created an exceptional portfolio and showreel, which later gained him profound recognition as the first Saudi aerial director in August of 2019.

He’s worked with the Ministry of Tourism shooting aerial photos and videos of top tourist destinations since then, covering historical and ancient sites such as AlUla and areas unknown to many such as Dee Ain. 

The ancient 600-year-old village in Al-Baha is surrounded by magnificent mountains with homes climbing upwards to resemble a high fortress. Tashkandi’s 360 degree view of the fortress has placed the village in the spotlight as a depiction of what ancient history the Kingdom can truly offer to its visitors.


Harassers face ‘naming and shaming’ after Saudi Shoura Council ruling

Updated 01 October 2020

Harassers face ‘naming and shaming’ after Saudi Shoura Council ruling

  • It will help eliminate harassment in workplaces and public places as well as in schools

JEDDAH: Violations of Saudi Arabia’s anti-sexual harassment laws could be punished by “naming and shaming” following a decision by the Kingdom’s Shoura Council to approve a defamation penalty.

The council voted in favor of the penalty during its session on Wednesday after previously rejecting the move in March this year.

Council member Latifah Al-Shaalan said the proposal to include the penalty was sent by the Saudi Cabinet.

Saudi lawyer Njood Al-Qassim said she agrees with the move, adding that it will help eliminate harassment in workplaces and public places as well as in schools.

“The penalty will be imposed according to a court ruling under the supervision of judges, and according to the gravity of the crime and its impact on society,” Al-Qassim told Arab News.

“This will be a deterrent against every harasser and molester,” she said.

Al-Qassim said that legal experts are required to explain the system and its penalties to the public.

“The Public Prosecution has clarified those that may be subject to punishment for harassment crimes, including the perpetrator, instigator and accessory to the crime, the one who agreed with the harasser, malicious report provider, and the person who filed a malicious prosecution lawsuit,” she added.

“The Public Prosecution also confirmed that attempted harassment requires half the penalty prescribed for the crime,” said Al-Qassim.

In May 2018, the Shoura Council and Cabinet approved a measure criminalizing sexual harassment under which offenders will be fined up to SR100,000 ($26,660) and jailed for a maximum of two years, depending on the severity of the crime. 

In the most severe cases, where the victims are children or disabled, for example, violators will face prison terms of up to five years and/or a maximum penalty of SR300,000.

Incidents that have been reported more than once will be subject to the maximum punishment. 

The law seeks to combat harassment crimes, particularly those targeting children under 18 and people with special needs.

Witnesses are also encouraged to report violations and their identities will remain confidential.

The law defines sexual harassment as words or actions that hint at sexuality toward one person from another, or that harms the body, honor or modesty of a person in any way. It takes into account harassment in public areas, workplaces, schools, care centers, orphanages, homes and on social media.

“The legislation aims at combating the crime of harassment, preventing it, applying punishment against perpetrators and protecting the victims in order to safeguard the individual’s privacy, dignity and personal freedom which are guaranteed by Islamic law and regulations,” a statement from the Shoura Council said.

Council member Eqbal Darandari, who supports the law, said on Twitter that the defamation penalty has proven its effectiveness in crimes in which a criminal exploits a person’s trust.

“The defamation of one person is a sufficient deterrent to the rest,” she said.

Social media activist Hanan Abdullah told Arab News the decision “is a great deterrent for every harasser since some fear for their personal and family’s reputation, and won’t be deterred except through fear of defamation.”

The move will protect women from “uneducated people who believe that whoever leaves her house deserves to be attacked and harassed,” she said.

“Anyone who is unhappy with this decision should look at their behavior.”